Peloton X Trek: Topanga Canyon
Words by Ben Foster; Images by Jordan Clark Haggard
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Topanga is known as a haven for hippies, but it’s also surely a haven for cyclists. Nestled into a bucolic Y-shaped canyon above the Pacific Ocean between the bustle of Los Angeles and the Malibu surflines, Topanga is the perfect jumping-off point for all kinds of bike riding adventures. There are big canyon climbs, scenic, meandering backroads, miles of fire road and plenty of short, steep and narrow side roads that climb through neighborhoods filled with old hunting cabins and secret compounds. In the 1960s Neil Young wrote “After The Gold Rush” here, and Charles Manson was bumming around, befriending Bryan Wilson of the Beach Boys. My neighbor claims Alice Cooper used to sleep in his backyard, and everyone who’s been here long enough has stories of the Wild Old Days.
It was in this setting that I got to know the new Trek Émonda. Exploring my neighborhood where grades exceed 25 percent and the narrow descents twist around back on top of themselves, the Émonda was instantly at home. It’s a bike that glides through the wind and wants to be pushed faster—on the flats but especially on the climbs. It eggs you on to pedal harder when the road pitches up. If you like climbing, this is the bike for you and the place to do it. One of the popular local routes takes you up the main Topanga Canyon road to Fernwood, a winding tree-shaded road that switchbacks up, up and up, and keeps climbing until you can see the ocean, downtown Los Angeles and Mt. Baldy in the distance, all from the same roadside patch of dirt. I’ve done this climb endlessly since moving here six years ago and it never gets old.
A thrilling descent back into town that will make you happy for those disc brakes brings you right to the natural foods store where a cold beverage and a fresh dumpling are waiting for you. Then it’s just a scenic cruise home, riding by the Great Wall of Topanga (a semi-sized roadside art installation) and the local secondhand store, Hidden Treasures, where you can buy a burning man costume and probably a crystal or two.